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Freedom and Masquerade

Charles Fréger, Ishmael Reed


Charles Fréger explores the masks, costumes and characters created by the descendants of Africans and indigenous peoples in the Americas

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All across the Americas, from the 16th century onwards, enslaved Africans escaped their captors and struck out on their own. These runaways, having found their freedom, established their own communities or joined with indigenous peoples to forge new identities.

Cimarron, borrowing a Spanish-American term for these fugitive former slaves, is a new series of photographic portraits of their descendants. From Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean islands and Central America, as far as the southern USA, elaborate masquerades are staged that celebrate and keep alive the memory of African slaves and their descendants. Stock characters are portrayed in costume, or in grotesque or satirical representations. A huge variety of African tribal dress, wild ritual regalia and shimmering Mardi Gras outfits feature in breathtaking succession. Vividly coloured silks and cottons combine with woven fibres, leaves, feathers, and bodypaint; props include emblems of slavery and slavemasters – ropes, sticks, guns and machetes. These photographs record real people whose collective sense of memory, folk history and imagination dramatically challenges our expectations.

Charles Fréger’s work has established a large and growing following among connoisseurs of contemporary photography, defining a new genre of documentary portraiture that extends and deepens our sense of the human past and the present.

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: PLC (no jacket)

Size: 23.0 x 18.0 cm

Extent: 320 pp

Illustrations: 307

Publication date: 28 March 2020

ISBN: 9780500022467

Contents List

Introduction • The Photographs • Cimarron: Slavery, Freedom and Ritual Masquerade, Krystel Gualde • Description of characters and groups, Ana Maria Ruiz

About the Author

Charles Fréger is a photographer based in Rouen, France. Internationally acclaimed for his subtle and poetic portraiture, he has devoted himself to the representation of social groups. Previous books include Wilder Mann, Portraits in Lace and Yokainoshima.

Ishmael Reed is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including the critically acclaimed Mumbo Jumbo and Conjugating Hindi. Two of his novels have been nominated for National Book Awards, and his poetry has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

List of Contributors

Ana Ruiz Valencia